What Does a Registered Nurse Do? Understanding Their Impact (2023)

What Does a Registered Nurse Do? Understanding Their Impact (1)

FromScrubstoNurse JackietoChicago Med, you’ve seen nurses portrayed multiple times on TV. Sure, they wear scrubs, give shots and carry stethoscopes around their necks, but what does a registered nurse do, exactly? More than you might think!

These multi-tasking caregivers are masters at juggling many important nursing duties to care for their patients and support other providers. Registered nurse (RN) jobs offer variety, career stability and a sense of personal fulfillment. With positives like these, it’s no wonder you’re interested in pursuing this profession.

What’s more is that registered nurse jobs are projected to increase at the much-faster-than-average rate of 12 percent through 2020, according to theBureau of Labor Statistics(BLS).1 That growth coupled with theabove-average earning potential—a 2019 median annual wage of $73,300, according to the BLS—makes an RN career especially enticing.1

But what is an RN exactly and what do they do on a daily basis? Keep reading for a better understanding of the typical nursing responsibilities.

A closer look at the registered nurse job description

It’s true that nurses’ duties vary greatly depending on the healthcare setting they work in. It may come as a surprise to some, but registered nurses are not limited to working in hospitals. RN nursescan also work inin clinics, schools, assisted living facilities, homes and more. They can also specialize in areas such as cardiac care, pediatrics, family practice, geriatrics, labor and delivery, and emergency nursing.

Still, there are some general RN duties you can expect regardless of employer. Here are some tasks that can be found in a typical registered nurse job description:

  • Administering medications to patients and monitoring for reactions or side effects
  • Recording and updating patient medical information and vital signs, maintaining detailed and accurate reports
  • Consulting and coordinating with other members of the healthcare team to plan, implement and evaluate patient care plans
  • Educating patients and family members on treatments and care plans

It’s also important for RNs to stay up-to-date with new tools and technologies to help provide the best care for patients and provide the best support for other providers.

In order to carry out these important duties, nurses must have a well-rounded balance of technical and soft skills. Many precise technical skills are needed to provide high quality care for patients. But aside from that, there are several transferrable skills the best nurses share. In order to excel in registered nurse jobs, you must possess excellent communication,emotional intelligence,teamwork, problem-solving andcritical-thinking skills.

Exploring registered nursing job environments

As mentioned before, RN nurses can provide care in a variety of healthcare settings. A registered nurse’s job description can vary quite a bit depending on the environment and specialty they’re in. To help you understand how those nurse responsibilities can differ, we broke it down into four common work environments. Compare and contrast to find the right healthcare setting for you.

What does a registered nurse do in a hospital?

Working in a hospital is what comes to most people’s minds when they think of nursing—and for good reason.The BLS reportsthat in 2018, 60 percent of registered nurses worked in hospitals.1 Examples of RN nurses you might find in a hospital include cardiac care nurses, nurse managers, perioperative nurses and labor and delivery nurses.

(Video) Registered Nurse Duties In Depth Look Job Description

Hospital nurses typically start their day with a report from the departing shift to get up-to-speed with any updates, from admissions and discharges to patients whose conditions may have improved or worsened. Next comes the count of medications, and then patient assessments, which generally includes vitals and a medical evaluation.

In a hospital setting, you never know what you’ll encounter. So any time during these normal rounds you could be interrupted to handle emergencies, such as a patient coding or in arrest, a new admission or another urgent event.

Hospital RNs also administer medication, change dressings and document care in patients’ records. And considering hospitals operate around the clock, these nurses may be expected to work long shifts, including overnight or on weekends and holidays.

What does a registered nurse do in a clinic?

For nurses working in a clinic, they typically arrive before the doctor to prepare for the day’s appointments. This may include getting exam tables ready, checking otoscope and ophthalmoscope lights, turning on computers and getting charts prepared for the day.

Clinic work revolves around appointments, so a nurse’s schedule will vary depending on how many patients are scheduled to visit. A slow day may have a nurse seeing 15 patients, while a busy day might include 30 or more. After a patient is checked in, the nurse is notified and typically begins the exam by checking height, weight and other vitals.

The nurse then gathers details of the patient’s injury or illness. It’s their duty to pass that information along to the physician. After patients meet with the physician, clinic nurses handle follow-up tests or procedures such as vaccinations, X-rays and scheduling meetings with specialists.

Clinic nurses typically care for patients with non-life-threatening injuries, so the work is not as fast-paced. They can also expect to work more predictable shifts during regular business hours.

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What does a registered nurse do in critical care?

Critical care, also known as intensive care, involves treating patients with life-threatening conditions who are in need of constant care. Nurses who work in critical care may have the title of trauma nurse, ICU nurse or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse.

Critical care nurses’responsibilities includecaring for dying patients, inserting life-saving IVs and injections, and educating families on issues such as life support and caring for people with brain injuries. They treat patients who have been in severe accidents, suffered strokes, experienced trauma or who have life-threatening illnesses.

Critical care nurses often care for patients who are intubated, ventilated or have multiple IV drips at a time. This requires knowledge of more equipment than nurses who practice in lower-stakes environments. They also generally have fewer patients under their care at a time, because each individual requires more attention and documentation.

These types of registered nurse jobs call for individuals who can keep their cool in high-stress situations and apply critical thinking skills in a fast-paced environment. Empathy and interpersonal skills are also imperative because you’ll often interact with family members who are distraught about the condition of their loved ones.

What does a registered nurse do in ambulatory care?

Ambulatory careis the term applied to nurses who take care of patients outside of hospital settings. These include outpatient facilities, such as same-day surgery centers, rehabilitation centers and home hospice.

Examples of RN nurses who work in ambulatory care settings are: dialysis nurses, telehealth nurses and palliative care nurses. Because ambulatory care nurses can be specialists or generalists, they have a variety of duties.

Hospice is one of the most common ambulatory care services available, with1.49 million Medicare beneficiariesreceiving hospice care in 2017.2 Some common duties for hospice nurses include providing care, ensuring proper medications are ordered, conducting assessments to make sure the patient is safe and comfortable, managing durable medical equipment orders and educating patients and family members on medications and side effects.

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A hospice or rehabilitation setting allows nurses to form strong relationships with their patients, getting to know them and their loved ones over an extended period of time. On the other hand, a nurse in a surgery center will interact with new patients each day. As you can tell, duties will vary drastically depending on the type of ambulatory care you’re providing.

A career built on caring

So what does a registered nurse do? You’ve probably discovered that the answer isn’t quite as simple as you may have thought. RN nurses are an integral part of a support system that requires them to wear many hats—from working with new technology to educating patients and providing life-saving procedures. Nevertheless, all RNs have plenty of common qualities: They must be critical thinkers, problem-solvers and perceptive of patient needs—even unspoken ones.

RNs are a valuable and irreplaceable part of any healthcare ecosystem. In order to fulfill the registered nurse job description, you must have intelligence and advanced training, but also compassion and attentive care. Are you considering pursuing the fast-paced and rewarding work of nursing? Learn more about what it’ll take in our article, “How to Become a Registered Nurse: Your Step-by-Step Guide.”

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed July 2020]. www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 2019 edition. https://www.nhpco.org/nhpco-releases-updated-edition-of-hospice-facts-and-figures-report/ [accessed July 2020]

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2020.


What is your understanding of the responsibilities of the registered nurse? ›

Registered Nurse Job Duties and Responsibilities

Assessing, observing, and speaking to patients. Recording details and symptoms of patient medical history and current health. Preparing patients for exams and treatment. Administering medications and treatments, then monitoring patients for side effects and reactions.

How can I make an impact in nursing? ›

Volunteer to train and precept others – Nurse managers are looking for skilled nurses to train and teach the next generation of nurses. By volunteering for opportunities to train others, you can influence new team members and help them to become better nurses.

What are the impact of nurse on patient? ›

Nurses' greatest power in improving the patient experience lay in their ability to effectively and empathically communicate with patients. Nurses, who of all clinicians spend the most time with patients, are key to delivering quality patient education while assuaging patient concerns and keeping their fears at bay.

What are the five key roles of nurses? ›

Five Basic Duties You'll be Most Likely to Perform as a Nurse
  • Administering medication. ...
  • Recording and monitoring patient vital signs. ...
  • Maintaining a detailed medical record. ...
  • Drawing blood samples. ...
  • Providing emotional support for patients.
27 Apr 2022

What are the duties and responsibilities of a staff nurse? ›

Staff Nurse Responsibilities:
  • Provide high-quality patient care.
  • Assist with the continuous development of staff.
  • Identify hazards in the workplace and provide solutions.
  • Treat emergency injuries.
  • Develop programs to maintain health and safety.
  • Identify work-related risks.
  • Document all injuries and illnesses.

How does being a nurse impact your life? ›

Your helping hand as a nurse impacts all of humanity. The patients you may work with will be in a vulnerable state and may be dealing with shock. As a nurse, you'll be the one that helps them feel safe and comfortable. The knowledge you hold as a nurse will help to provide comfort to both patients and their families.

How can nurses be influential within the community and can make a difference? ›

Nurses can lead community health initiatives such as disease screening events to raise awareness of important health issues or vaccination events to increase uptake of vital public health resources.

What is the impact of nursing on client outcomes? ›

By using research in the nursing practice, nurses can pinpoint the best course of action for successful outcomes. Through the application of knowledge, hands-on experience and the latest evidence from research, nurses can help patients recover from serious illnesses or learn methods to manage their medical conditions.

How do nurses contribute to quality improvement? ›

Nurses are directly involved in almost all aspects of hospital quality, including patient care, bedside and medication management, assistance with surgeries and other major operations, data collection/reporting, and more.

How does the nurse patient relationship impact recovery? ›

For example, a strong clinician-patient relationship improves recovery from mental illness,† compassionate nursing leads to fewer pressure ulcers and falls among hospitalized patients, and patients whose healthcare providers help them feel optimistic about a medical procedure experience less pain and recover more ...

What are 4 key skills that a nurse needs for effective interviewing? ›

They include:
  • Active listening. Nurses must do more than simply listen when conducting a health history assessment—they must actively listen. ...
  • Adaptive questioning. ...
  • Nonverbal communication.

How do you handle difficult patients? ›

7 Tips for Handling Difficult Patients
  1. Don't Get Defensive. ...
  2. Watch Your Body Language. ...
  3. Let Them Tell Their Story and Listen Quietly. ...
  4. Acknowledge the Situation. ...
  5. Set Boundaries. ...
  6. Administer Patient Satisfaction Surveys. ...
  7. Be Proactive.
8 Jul 2019

How did you handle a difficult situation examples? ›


What are the six 6 roles of a nurse? ›

Make a set of flash cards that lists and defines the six roles that nurses must play in patient care (caregiver, decision maker, communicator, manager of care, patient advocate, and teacher).

What is the most important characteristic of a nurse? ›


One of the most important qualities of a good nurse is compassion. In their career, nurses will see patients suffer. Beyond simply offering a solution, they must be able to express compassion for patients and their families. This allows them to form meaningful relationships with their patients.

What does a nurse do answer? ›

They monitor the health conditions of patients and prepare them for relevant treatment. Staff nurses follow any progress in a patient's health and record them to aid in the future. From preventing illness to administering relevant medications, staff nurses perform different activities to improve patients' health.

What are the interests abilities and skills of a nurse? ›

Skills and interests (public health nurse)
  • excellent communication skills.
  • project management.
  • analytical skills.
  • influencing and negotiating skills.
  • ability to work across multi-agency or multi-disciplinary professional networks.
  • good people skills in order to develop and sustain relationships.
  • problem-solving skill.

What is the impact of the nurse's role in clinical outcomes for the organization? ›

Nurses play a major role in improving patient outcomes. They can put patients at ease by delivering compassionate care. When patients feel comfortable with nurses, they are more likely to open up about their level of pain and discomfort.

How do nurses contribute to healthcare? ›

The nurse plays a significant role in health promotion and disease prevention, emphasizes care and compassion, and advocates for patients and their families. By continually seeking learning opportunities, the nurse is part of the solution to achieve better patient outcomes and reduce harm.

Why do you want to be a nurse best answer? ›

It gives you the opportunity to positively impact your patients & community. “I want to be a nurse because I really want to help people through some of their most vulnerable moments,” explains Meagan Thompson. All nurses have at least one thing in common—they want to help people.

Does the nurses education have influence on their ability to make an impact? ›

Leveraging Experience for a Greater Impact

A nursing professional's level of experience and education can have a large impact on his or her income and autonomy. For instance, licensed practical nurses need only one or two years of training and must work exclusively under the supervision of a doctor or registered nurse.

How can a nurse best influence policies in an organization? ›

By increasing their expertise and experience, nurses influence the policy and the public health policy effectively for the betterment of the healthcare system. Through advocating and acquiring higher qualifications, nurses are helping the patients, families, and the community.

What makes a nurse different from other healthcare professionals? ›

Nurses are distinct from other healthcare providers as they have a wide scope of practice and approach to medical care. They play an integral role in promoting health, preventing illness, and caring for all individuals, including those who are disabled or are physically or mentally ill.

Why did you choose nursing essay? ›

2) I want to become a nurse because of their selfless care for every patient. 3) Whenever we get injured, a nurse is always ready to help us. 4) By being a nurse I want to help and take care of every people. 5) The work of nurses during the corona pandemic inspired me for this profession.

Why are you passionate about nursing? ›

As nurses, we have the opportunity to empower our patients and their families with knowledge. When I see that a patient understands their disease process and the plan of care, it is an awesome feeling. Nurses have the ability to bring understanding and peace during what can be a confusing or challenging time.

What are examples of quality improvement in healthcare? ›

What are Examples of Quality Improvement Initiatives in Healthcare?
  • Reduction in medication-related adverse events.
  • Optimization of sepsis care.
  • Decreased number of urinary catheter infections.
  • Reduced hospital readmissions.
  • Decreased medication administration errors.
  • Improved electronic medical record documentation.
28 Jan 2022

How can nurses influence the quality and safety of care? ›

Educating patients on their post-discharge care is a simple, yet effective, example of how nurses can improve patient safety. By working with patients to ensure they have a thorough understanding of their medical condition and self-care routine before they are discharged, nurses help facilitate a smooth recovery.

How can a professional nurse demonstrate leadership in improving patient outcomes? ›

Examples of these processes may include facilitating work conditions that promote optimum safe patient care, creating open communication with staff to support quality care standards, or promoting positive relationships with staff that promote work engagement.

What is the goal of nurses quality improvement efforts? ›

The goal is to deliver safe, high-quality health care to patients in all clinical settings. You can use the information in this guide to help improve quality of care across settings and at multiple levels.

How does the nurse help lead change in professional practice? ›

Nurses achieve leadership positions throughout the healthcare system (e.g., organizational, local, state, and federal levels) to design and implement innovative changes to health policy. Nursing organizations monitor health policy regulations to ensure they are supportive of patient care and nursing practice.

How do you implement quality improvement in healthcare? ›

  1. Determine and prioritize potential areas for improvement. You will need to identify and understand the ways in which your practice could improve. ...
  2. Collect and analyze data. Data collection and analysis lie at the heart of quality improvement. ...
  3. Communicate your results. ...
  4. Commit to ongoing evaluation. ...
  5. Spread your successes.

How does a nurse impact patient care? ›

Nurses' greatest power in improving the patient experience lay in their ability to effectively and empathically communicate with patients. Nurses, who of all clinicians spend the most time with patients, are key to delivering quality patient education while assuaging patient concerns and keeping their fears at bay.

What are 3 important characteristics of the nurse-patient relationship? ›

The five key components of the therapeutic nurse-client relationship are professional intimacy, power, empathy, respect and trust. Regardless of the context, length of interaction and whether the nurse is the primary or secondary care provider, these components are always present.

Does proper handling of patients have impact to their care and recovery? ›

Giving quality patient care can absolutely have an effect on health outcomes. It contributes to a more positive patient recovery experience and can improve the physical and mental quality of life for people with serious illnesses, such as cancer.

How do you deal with a difficult patient interview question? ›

DEALING WITH PATIENTS Interview Questions & Answers ... - YouTube

What are the 10 most common interview questions and answers for nurses? ›

Common nursing interview questions
  • Do you work well with other nurses, doctors and staff? ...
  • How would you handle a difficult patient? ...
  • How do you handle workplace stress? ...
  • What do you do if your replacement does not arrive? ...
  • How would you handle a disagreement with a doctor? ...
  • Describe how you manage a busy workload.

How do you answer what are your weaknesses in nursing interview? ›

Monster.com suggests you state the professional weakness but emphasize the positive and add your solution for overcoming this shortcoming — because all weaknesses are opportunities for growth. Any time you mention a weakness, it's wise to mention what you're actively doing to overcome the hurdle.

How do you handle a patient yelling at you? ›

If a patient is angry enough to verbally abuse you, remain calm and professional. Keep some distance between you and the patient and do not respond until the verbal barrage is over. When it is, speak softly and call the patient by name.

How would you handle a patient who complains about everything? ›

How to Handle Patient Complaints
  • Listen to them. As basic as it may sound, this is your first and most important step when dealing with an unhappy patient. ...
  • Acknowledge their feelings. ...
  • Ask questions. ...
  • Explain and take action. ...
  • Conclude. ...
  • Document complaints.
21 Mar 2018

How do you handle stressful situations in nursing? ›

Learn easy ways to cope with stress at your nursing job
  1. Remember it's not personal. Know that patients and family members with a sick loved one are under some of the worst stress of their lives. ...
  2. Practice deep breathing exercises. ...
  3. Retreat to a peaceful place. ...
  4. Write or draw in your own personal notebook.
30 Sept 2016

How do you handle stress and pressure? ›

2. Commit to a Positive Attitude
  1. Decide what you can do. Pinpoint which parts of the situation you have the power to change or influence for the better. ...
  2. Get support. Find someone to talk to about your situation. ...
  3. Care for yourself. Take especially good care of yourself when stress in your life is high.

How do you work under pressure? ›

In this post we offer tips to help your team maintain composure and cope better with stress and pressure in the workplace.
  1. Maintain control and focus. ...
  2. Create a plan. ...
  3. Evaluate your priorities. ...
  4. Avoid procrastination… ...
  5. 5. … ...
  6. Break down tasks and simplify. ...
  7. Communicate effectively with your team. ...
  8. Execute the plan.

What is the role of a registered nurse essay? ›

A registered Nurse mainly focuses on caring for educating the patients and their family members about early recovery and ways of prevention of diseases. Hence, nurses assess patients' health problems and needs, develop and execute nursing care plans and maintain medical records.

What means registered nurse? ›

Registered Nurse (RN)

An individual who has graduated from a state-approved school of nursing, passed the NCLEX-RN Examination and is licensed by a state board of nursing to provide patient care.

What new responsibilities or challenges could help you grow? ›

  • Paint the big picture. Recognise that increased responsibilities early in your career accelerates your growth and achieves targets faster. ...
  • Ready and reliable. Make sure your team and managers know you are ready for a bigger role. ...
  • Don't ask. ...
  • Offer help. ...
  • Bring a solution. ...
  • Be indispensable. ...
  • Seek knowledge. ...
  • Grow your network.
18 Mar 2019

What does the nurse find in Romeo and Juliet? ›

The Nurse discovers Juliet under the spell of Friar Laurence's potion in act four, scene five, and the grief of her death as seriously as she mourned Tybalt. She is, finally, present at the real deathbed of Romeo, Juliet, and Paris, though speechless.

How can I be a good nursing essay in English? ›

There must be a professional relationship between nurses and patients which must encompass trustworthiness, empathy and cooperation among them. According to (Severinsson, 2003), the goal of ideal nurse can be achieved by the nurses by developing professional relationship with the care receivers.

Is nursing a profession or service essay? ›

Nursing is a profession that blends the rich traditions of the past with the ever changing realities of today's health care industry. Nursing is not simply an assortment of special skills and the nurse is not simply a person proficient in performing these specific tasks. Nursing is a profession.

What skills do you need to be a registered nurse? ›

Ten Essential Skills for Nurses
  • Communication. ...
  • Attitude and confidence. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Networking. ...
  • Critical thinking and creative problem solving. ...
  • Professionalism. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Conflict resolution.
16 Jan 2021

Can you put RN after your name? ›

Dear Wondering About Credentials,

Either way is correct when writing out your name and credentials — Jane Doe, RN, BSN, or Jane Doe, BSN, RN. In the world of academia, the college degree is used first and then licensure and other credentials.

What is being a registered nurse like? ›

Being a nurse is one of the most challenging jobs someone could do. It's physically and mentally demanding at times. However, at the end of the day, you feel amazing satisfaction and pride. Being able to help those in need for a living is unlike any other profession."

How do you handle difficult tasks at work? ›

Here are a few tips to help you handle the difficult assignment—and conquer it:
  1. Develop an action plan. Start by outlining how you will approach the assignment and do small chunks of the work at a time. ...
  2. Get a group together. ...
  3. Ask for help. ...
  4. Step back from the assignment.
9 Apr 2014

What key skills would you bring to the role? ›

Here are some of the most constantly in-demand transferable skills.
  • Communication. Effective communication is essential in any role. ...
  • Organisation and planning. ...
  • Motivation and enthusiasm. ...
  • Initiative. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Leadership skills. ...
  • Problem solving. ...
  • Flexibility.

Did the Nurse betray Juliet? ›

The rift between the Nurse and Juliet foreshadows the final split in their relationship which occurs in Act III, Scene 5 when the Nurse betrays Juliet by advising her to forget Romeo and marry Paris.

Is the Nurse Juliet's mother? ›

In the play, Shakespeare presents the Nurse as Juliet's surrogate mother - a maternal figure, who truly loves Juliet, wants her to be happy and will do anything for that happiness. This is illustrated when she keeps Juliet's marriage to Romeo a secret, risking her job and livelihood.

How old is Juliet? ›

In Shakespeare's original story, Romeo is given the age of 16 years and Juliet is given the age of 13 years. The Montague and Capulet families originated in the Divine Comedy by the Italian author Dante Aligheri, rather than in Shakespeare.


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